There are two fairly popular stories. One mentions a man who wished for a million dollars in every prayer. His wishes did come true and he won a million dollars. The only trouble was that he met an accident, was paralyzed for life and these million dollars were a payout from the insurance company. The other one is a Zen story of a farmer who was content to face anything that life threw at him, good or bad, with perfect stoicism of “so be it”.
I think in general, most people think they fall somewhere in the middle of this “only my way” and “so be it” continuum. I also suspect based on what I see, we all are a lot closer to the “only my way” end of the spectrum.
Only My Way<——-x——————————x——————————————->So Be It
Where we truly are We think we are here
Just take an average day. From the moment we wake up till we go back to bed, the entire day is stuffed with wishes. From very simple ones to some rather more serious – “I wish I would get the window seat in the train, I hope the Math teacher wouldn’t ask for the homework, Hope the client wouldn’t follow up on the report he was supposed to get today, Hope my lunch does not have the same vegetable curry today” and so on. The vegetable curry one was the serious wish.
I think we all notice that our mind keeps this conversation going – like an FM radio – in the background, where it is reacting to everything that is happening and constantly making a wish about the outcome.
Now try doing this. For one day, make a list of all the simple wishes that popped up. Every single one and list those down as they come. At the end of the day go through the list – mark each as fulfilled or not. I suspect that more than 90% would not be fulfilled as desired. Now, ask how much energy or hope or desire was invested for each and how much was the impact of that unfulfilled wish on the quality of that day. The chances are that the energy invested in hoping for a favorable outcome would far outweigh any setback that was felt. It is also possible that the surge of energy (usually negative) in the fear response (what if the teacher/boss/wife/husband said this or that?) anticipated was far more than anything we felt while the event actually happened.
The fear of going to a dentist is far greater than the visit itself. [Learning – do not set a dentist appointment many weeks away]
In my college days, the places of worship were usually packed to the hilt during the exam weeks. The students would suddenly remember their deity with extraordinary vigor. Then the deity got a break till the results were due. After that the place was quiet till the cycle repeated itself in the next semester. The handful of visitors, priests and I suspect even the deity looked more relaxed.
I wonder where in the spectrum above did those students fall? Were they there to say “I should score x% at least” or “just bless me Lord, whatever may be the outcome”. In fact, what are most people thinking when they visit a place of worship? How much of that is surrender or seeking a blessing and how much is transactional?
As a Jewish proverb states “ I ask not for a lighter burden, but broader shoulders.” Or a famous bhajan that goes “जाहि विधि राखे राम ताहि विधि रहिये [I accept the way Lord plans my life]
There is this interesting thought experiment wherein our Creator comes and says “look, I like how you pray to me. But let me tell you that I do not influence the outcome of the universe in any way. It runs according to its natural cycle with no interference from me”
How many would turn out to pray the next day?
As the great Rumi said:
“The moment you accept
you’ve been given
the door will open
the hurt you embrace
Now, what is it in your “makes me so anxious” wish list that you will drop today?